"I Do Not Need Gender"
An essay by Tyler Ford
As a child, there were two things I wished for every night before falling asleep: braces (I was strangely obsessed with orthodontia) and different genitals. I didn’t have much of an understanding of gender, but I knew the word “girl” fit as uncomfortably as the skirts I refused to wear. From the age of three, I was insisting that my body was not my own and not what I wanted. What was “down there” felt wrong to me in ways that I could not articulate, but I knew that there were people out there with different genitals from the ones I had, and I thought I might want those. Everyone called me a tomboy; I settled only because “boy” made up half of the word.
Yet as I grew older, I longed to experience girlhood. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have a normal teenage life like I saw in movies, and I wanted to be seen and to be validated by my peers. Most of all, I wanted to grow up to be a woman because I loved the women in my life, and I wanted to identify with them. My desire to exist as a boy and my inability to feel like a girl pulled me in one direction, and my desire to ground myself in what others called “reality” – seemingly the only path to normalcy, pulled me in the opposite direction. At times, I felt like saltwater taffy – a really shitty flavor of the sort – being stretched until I could no longer recognize myself.
Most of my life has been spent swinging back and forth on a pendulum, trying to figure out which side – boy or girl – I would inevitably make my home. I spent years desperate to feel any sense of stability, to feel any sort of permanent allegiance to one of those two genders, to feel like I belonged anywhere at all. I’d spend one year in bras and miniskirts and the next injecting myself with 200mg of testosterone weekly. I could alter my body, wear different clothes, change my mannerisms and my speech, and none of it could change my confused heart, which would vibrate out of control every time I tried to hold my gender still and teach it to behave. Throughout my life (and constantly now), people have read me as in-between male and female. I am not in-between anything but the confines of the Western gender binary.
For the most part, I like to completely ignore the fact that my body exists at all. I am a walking brain; I am a galaxy of stars; I am unable to be contained in and defined by something so limiting. My pronouns (they/them) are both a rallying cry against being gendered without my consent, and a way in which I embrace both everything I am and everything I am not. I do not need to fit into or belong to an identity to exist, to survive, to make other people comfortable. I need space and I need freedom; I need compassion and I need kindness; I need openness and I need understanding; I need my own love. I do not need gender.
Crowned one of the best social media stars of 2015 by MTV, Tyler Ford is a 25-year-old NYC-based agender writer, speaker, consultant, and personality. They are a contributor for Rookie and MTV, where they often write about their experiences as a queer transgender person. Their work can also be found in the Guardian, Poetry Magazine, and V Magazine